Arroyo and Gleeman agree: Reds are confusing

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When reports surfaced last week that the Reds “need to slash payroll” and may be forced to shed high-priced veterans I wrote about the horrible planning that led to their trading three players to acquire Scott Rolen and his $12 million 2010 contract just months ago.
Cincinnati had no business taking on a salary like that if the team’s financial situation was in question and apparently one of the high-priced veterans who may be shopped as a result agrees with me. Here’s what Bronson Arroyo recently had to say about the front office’s lack of planning:

In my mind, there was no reason to get Rolen if we’re turning around and moving guys without waiting to see what happens. I think they’ll give us four months to see if we can compete in the division. If we’re not, we’ll have a big scale back. For now, they seem committed to win.



I know the budget is tight, but if you re-sign Ramon [Hernandez] for a year, why then go in the other direction? If we were saving, we could have easily had [Ryan] Hanigan catching 130 games next year.

If that last part about Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan looks familiar, it’s because I wrote basically the same thing last week when the Reds spent $3 million to re-sign the veteran catcher. In fact, my exact quote was that “the Reds could have saved $3 million and simply made Hanigan their starter behind the plate” because “a few million bucks certainly could have come in handy.”
It’s not often that a starting pitcher who “hasn’t paid any attention to it” while vacationing “on his boat sailing off of the Florida coast” and some doofus blogger can both immediately agree that the front office is doing some strange things, but the Reds’ lack of foresight is apparently obvious to everyone but them.

Zack Greinke understands that “the opener” isn’t just about in-game strategy

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Over the weekend, Craig was among those cited as having criticized the Rays by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Craig wrote about it in Sunday’s And That Happened. Many of the responses from Rays fans to him on Twitter, at least most of what I saw, conflated distaste for ownership’s penny-pinching for a belief that the team is bad. Indeed, the Rays enter Tuesday’s action 64-61 and their position above .500 has something to do with “the opener” strategy, which is when they have a reliever like Sergio Romo start the game before handing the ball off to an actual starter after an inning or two. Other teams, like the Twins, have taken notice of “the opener” and have begun experimenting with it.

On Monday, Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller published a lengthy column discussing how recent changes to the game of baseball have made it a worse product. He quotes a lot of old-timers, which I discussed yesterday. Miller also quoted Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke on the subject of “the opener.” While quotes from the likes of Goose Gossage and Pete Rose were a bit more eye-popping, Greinke’s thoughts shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Greinke said:

It’s really smart, but it’s also really bad for baseball. It’s just a sideshow. There’s always ways to get a little advantage, but the main problem I have with it is you do it that way, then you’ll end up never paying any player what he’s worth because you’re not going to have guys starting, you’re not going to have guys throwing innings.

You just keep shuffling guys in and out constantly so nobody will ever get paid. Someone’s going to make the money, either the owners or the players. You keep doing it that way, the players won’t make any money.

Back in May, I wrote about how the overarching concept of “bullpenning” creates a serious labor issue in baseball. Greinke touched on exactly those points. An elite starter makes significantly more money than an elite reliever. Compare contracts signed by David Price (seven years, $217 million) and Max Scherzer (seven years, $210 million) to the contract signed by Aroldis Chapman (five years, $86 million), which is currently the most lucrative contract signed by a reliever. It wouldn’t crack the top-85 contracts in baseball.

A starter’s number of starts and his innings pitched total are both cited in arbitration filings and contract negotiations. A pitcher who made 33 starts in a season will have more leverage than a pitcher who made only 15 starts. Meanwhile, Romo and Ryne Stanek‘s innings totals aren’t much different than a normal year of relief. Thus, if you’re Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman and GM Erik Neander, spreading the number of starts (and innings) between the “rotation” and bullpen will reduce the cost of pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible starters. The owners save this money and pocket it instead of reinvesting it into the team. Then they’ll turn around, cry poor, and ask residents of Tampa to foot the billion-dollar bill for a new stadium in Ybor City, roughly 25 minutes from their current digs.

Greinke is right and we should pay attention to what he’s saying. While “the opener” has some strategic merit, particularly for teams with less-than-complete starting rotations, it also conveniently helps save money for stingy and exploitative front offices. We’ve already accepted that a third of the league gave up on the season before it began. Let’s not accept that teams can give up on their pitching staffs as well.